With another 214,000 jobs added to the US job market in October 2014, US unemployment fell to a recovery low of 11.5%, below the long-term average. However, the job market is still highly competitive, with hiring managers receiving piles of resumes for each opening. So what can you do to give yourself an edge in such a competitive market?
Over the years working in the employment industry I have seen thousands of resumes from just about every industry. The one thing that gets me is that no matter what college you went to, no matter how talented you may be in your profession, very few people seem to be any good at writing a great resume.
Unless you’re a professional resume writer like myself, resume writing can be a tedious task, to say the least, and most people just default to doing a google search for a free resume template, which they then download and populate with their own career information. The job was done.
This means that the vast majority of resumes out there tend to be very similar, and as such, contain the same mistakes. Not that many people bother to research resume writing techniques beyond browsing a few articles that are easily found online.
This presents a golden window of opportunity for you, however: all you need to do is put a little more effort in, and suddenly your resume will stand out head-and-shoulders above the rest.
So, without further adieu, I give 4 of the most common mistakes people make on their resume. By following this resume advice, you will leapfrog the masses and position yourself at the front of the line for job interviews!
1. Using a Generic Career Objective
At a conservative guess, I would say that at least 80% of all resumes have a completely redundant career objective at the top of their page. Why? Because generic resume advice online tells you to personalize your resume for each job application: “show the hiring manager that you want their position”. Yes, this is true. However, adding a generic career objective doesn’t achieve this…at all. The following example career objective is what seems to crop up on a resume, after resume, after resume:
“experienced HR specialist looking for an opportunity at a young and ambitious company where I can utilize my skills and experience for the benefit of the organization”.
This is pointless! Obviously, if you are applying for a job, it is kind of a given that you are going to apply your skills and experience to benefit the company…I mean, what else were you thinking of doing?
To include such a career objective is a pure waste of resume space. At the end of the day, you want your resume to be a short and concise marketing tool, packed with good reasons why the hiring manager should give you an interview. My advice: skip the career objective, and include a professional profile section instead. This can be used to introduce you as a professional; highlighting your key achievements and core skills.
2. Missing Company Description
When writing your Professional Experience section, obviously you want to include a selection of bullet points that identify what you did within that role, what you achieved, and what made you good at that job. Most people fail to also provide the reader with insight into the size/scale of the business involved.
Some sort of company description is essential, in any industry. It is needed to give your job role and achievements context. For example, as a restaurant manager, without citing on your resume the number of tables within the restaurant, the value of the menu, and other tangible measures, it’s hard for the reader to fully appreciate your achievements. A restaurant manager in charge of 25-floor staff and 60 tables is a far different situation to someone with 10 tables and 3-floor staff.
When writing your professional experience section, be sure to start each job with a summarizing bullet point explaining the scale of your role. You can work this information into one or more of the bullet points. Be sure to apply this technique across your entire professional experience section.
3. Inclusion of Day-to-Day Responsibilities
What is a resume? A resume is a marketing tool, designed to get you an interview. It achieves this by showing that you have experience and/or skills needed to be good at and excel in the job role being advertised. This means, your resume should be concise, engaging, and show the reader that you are GOOD at what you do. Bullet points are easy to read and can effectively summarize your skills, your previous duties, and experiences, in a way that will impress a hiring manager.
A bullet point should not be used to list out endless day to day job responsibilities. You do NOT want to take the job description for the position you’re applying for, then match up all your previous jobs that also included similar duties, and write a corresponding bullet point. If you do this, you are merely showing you can perform the job’s basic requirements. A recruiter is looking for more than just the bare minimum. They want someone who will be great at the job!
When writing your bullet points, yes you need to include job responsibilities to identify the more complex aspects of what you did in that role, however, you want to focus on writing bullet points that:
- Show what you achieved in your job
- Show you went that extra bit further, beyond your realm of duty
I’ve seen too many secretarial resumes listing “kept reception area tidy and clean and presentable for clients”. No hiring manager wants to read this or see that you can water the plants on a daily basis.
Have a think before you finalize your resume; consider what each bullet point contributes to your resume. If it seems redundant, that it identifies something anyone in your role performs, then eliminate it!
4. Lack of Quantified Information
Quantification: the process of turning information into numbers. Probably the most valuable of all these 4 tips, is to try to quantify your resume and your achievements. We are all aware that most hiring managers spend mere seconds reviewing resumes – one way to grab their attention is to use numbers. Number stand out on a resume.
When talking about your achievements, be sure to cite specific figures, and write them in numerical form:
- increased revenue by $100,000 in first 2 years
Too many times have I read on a resume that someone has managed to increase revenue, streamline efficiency, reduce overheads….but the writer has failed to provide a figure demonstrating so!
In addition to achievements, quantification should be incorporated in your company description also; as a manager what was the company head count? As a nurse, how many beds were in your ward? As an estate agent, what was the average value of the property on your patch? Give a figure. It’s bound to catch the recruiter’s eye, and it will also help put your work into context (as explained in number 2 of this article).
Avoid making these 4 mistakes when writing your resume and you will avoid making the mistake that probably 80% of all others make. Your resume isn’t there to earn you a job, it’s just about separating yourself from the crowd and earning an interview. You don’t always need to use professional resume services, it’s possible to do the job yourself – just follow the key rules outlined above, keep your resume short, concise, targeted, and THINK about everything you include before you include it.